The Art of Hating Kobe Bryant
written by Mark Grey
As another NBA season is now behind us and Kobe Bryant has picked up his fifth title, his place in history is up for debate. Bryant who was once the clear cut poster boy for the post Jordan era of the NBA, is now the most polarizing figure in all of sports. Millions of people love the Lakers star, and millions of people hate him, but every basketball fan has an opinion on Kobe and are pretty passionate about it. It has gotten to the point where when someone asks whether or not you are a Kobe fan, it almost defines you as a person. It’s like asking if you are a Democrat or a Republican. While trying to debate Bryant’s place among NBA greats, I was amazed by how many Bryant haters there were. The number of haters was so great that I didn’t even find it fair to throw them all into one group. So just to be fair, I broke the Kobe Bryant haters up into groups so they are easier to identify.
When you ask most Kobe Haters (we will call them KH for short) to talk about Kobe, the first thing you will hear is, “he’s not Michael Jordan.” What exactly does that mean? Jordan is regarded as the greatest basketball player who ever lived – is not being better than him a bad thing? I wonder if I brought a 7’6” man into these peoples living room if the first words out there mouth be, “he isn’t the tallest man to ever live.” I’m guessing they would be thinking more along the lines of, I don’t know if he is the tallest person to ever live but he damn sure is tall, and if he isn’t the tallest person ever, he sure is close. Saying Bryant is no MJ really isn’t saying anything, its just ignoring who he is because of who he is not.
Then there is the group of haters who always seem to think Kobe is the second best player in the league no matter what. Let this group tell it, Bryant has been the second best player in the NBA for over a decade, but the number 1 player changes every other year. Somehow the number 1 player always seems to fall down the list but Kobe just never moves up. There was the he’s not better than Iverson debate that lasted for a couple of years, then there was the he’s not better than Tracy McGrady campaign which was followed by he’s not better than Steve Nash era — hell even Chris Paul got his name mentioned for a year as the one guy in the NBA who is better than Kobe.This is the fan who has become a diehard Cavs fan out of nowhere. He is the same guy who years ago said that if Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady ever played with the best center in the NBA they would win a title too. His favorite line use to be “Kobe will never win without Shaq”, but he never seems to remember saying any of that. He often has a lot to say in the regular season, but not so much in the playoffs.
Which then brings us to the group that we will just call “Mr. Unrealistic-Casual fan.” That’s the guy who watches about 10-15 basketball games a year, normally at a bar where he isn’t even paying attention and by the time the game is over, he is too drunk to even tell you what happened in the game. He is the guy who yells out “all I know is when Shaq left, Kobe couldn’t even get out of the first round.” It’s hard to really argue with him because he is right, that is all he knows. He never mentions that Kobe lost in the first round to a Suns team that had All Star Shawn Marion as the third option, while the Lakers third leading scorer was Brian Cook.
The next type of KH, is “Mr. I-know-basketball-more-than-you.” He normally is the guy who played basketball in High School and may have even walked on at a D2 school. He now coaches kids basketball so he thinks he has this ability to understand the game that no one else does, and can see things that you cant see and no one else can explain. He is the guy who says Kobe just doesn’t make others better, he says things like, you have to take Steve Nash over Kobe or no one wants to play with Kobe because he’s too selfish. When you ask him to explain why Nash has played on some of the most talented teams in the NBA over the last decade and hasn’t won anything, he really can’t answer you. He says Kobe doesn’t make anyone better but can’t explain why three years ago no one wanted Pau Gasol but now everyone seems to think he is the best thing since sliced bread. Three years ago, no GM in their right mind would have traded Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, for Gasol and Odom, but for some reason this guy insists that Nash gets more out of his teammates then Kobe. This guy normally has a long list of players he would rather start a team with (Nash, Paul, LeBron, Dirk etc.) all of whom have never won anything even in college, but he can’t explain why because you just wouldn’t understand. When you ask him to name Bryant’s weakness, he gets frustrated trying to tell you, so he just tells you that you don’t understand the game like he does. Sounds pretty stupid, but who are you to argue? He does coach 6th graders. The more you listen to him, you can tell his hate for Kobe is deeply rooted. He secretly blames star players like Kobe for the reason his hoop dreams never panned out. If the star player on his college team had just passed more, coach could have seen all his talent. He will never tell anyone out loud, but in his heart he thinks he could have been better than Kobe if he was allowed to shoot more.
The hardest guy to argue with is the history guy. He typically watches a lot of basketball and knows his stuff. He doesn’t like Kobe, but respects his game and as painful as it is to say, he will even admit that Kobe is the best player in the NBA today. He considers Kobe the best player of his generation, but will quickly tell you he is not one of the best ever. He will say Kobe is somewhere between 15th to 20th best player of all time. The problem with history guy is he can never name 15 players better than Kobe. He often starts reeling off names fast like Jordan, Magic, Bird, and Wilt. After spiting out four names really fast with ease, he throws out two more names, then just starts saying ridiculous things like Dr. J and Walt Frazier. In a last second effort to reach 10 players, he says George Mikan, even though not only has he never seen Mikan play, his father hasn’t either. He can never tell you who the remaining 7 to 8 players are who are better then Kobe but swears they exist he just can never think of them right now. While naming the greatest players of all time, he often changes the criteria for being great. He says Bill Russell has to be top 5 because its all about rings, then goes on to name a handful of players who he thinks are better then Kobe who combined have less rings than him. He always wants to point out that Kobe played with Shaq, but never wants to mention that Jordan, Bird, and Magic never won a title without another Hall of Fame player on their team. History guy knows his basketball, the only thing he doesn’t know is why Kobe isn’t one of the top players of all time.
The most interesting of all the KH is hypocrite guy. He says one thing, but his hate for Kobe says another. He says he hates Kobe because he wants to be like Mike, but doesn’t even notice he is wearing a number 23 Cavs jersey. He says he can’t stand Kobe because he’s so arrogant, but his favorite player is a 25 year old who calls himself King and speaks in third person — all while inviting us to “witness his greatness.” He is always complaining that today’s players only care about money and don’t care about getting better, but for some reason hates the player who works hardest in the NBA. He is often screaming that Kobe can’t win a title on his own in one breath, and in the second breath screaming LeBron needs help. He says things like today’s players have no respect for the players of the past, then turns around and says Kobe steals players moves from the past. He hates Kobe so much that he doesn’t even realize that stuff he says makes no sense. He calls every Kobe fan he knows every time Kobe has a bad game to say “I told you so” but he is the hardest guy to find every time Kobe has great game or hit’s a game winning shot. He always says he can’t stand Kobe because he wants to be like Jordan, even though every Saturday he himself hit’s the park in his Jordan shoes, Jordan socks, Jordan shorts and Jordan shirt and never forgets his Jordan bag full of Gatorade. Hypocrite guy doesn’t even realize everyone wants to be like Jordan including himself, the only difference is Kobe is the only one willing to put in the same work Mike did.
Last but not least is “Ms. I-can’t-stand-him.” This is the female who obviously used to date Bryant, if you didn’t know any better. She often says I can’t stand him with so much passion that you can tell it goes deeper than basketball. She has a long list of reasons she hates him, and not one of them has anything to do with basketball. She doesn’t even have a favorite basketball team, she just roots for whatever team is playing the Lakers. If you watched her throughout the playoffs you would think she was a Suns, Thunder, and Celtics fan her whole life. There really is no need to argue with her because all she ever says is “ I can’t stand him” and all you can really do is wonder, does she know him?
Does every super star in sports have his/her group of haters? Yes, but hating Kobe has gone to a different level, it has taken on an art form. While millions of Americans will admit to being a Kobe hater, there are several hundred thousands of fans out there who don’t even know they are Kobe haters. The saying goes, “it’s lonely at the top,” or as Jay-Z once said, “you don’t even know me and you mad. How it feel to be a hater, now I know exactly how it feels to be a Laker.”
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